Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota

When the Sioux and Gophers met in Grand Forks in January of last season, Minnesota was ranked third nationally, while North Dakota was unranked. The Fighting Sioux routed the Maroon and Gold in two straight games, pulled even with Minnesota in the conference standings, and rode that momentum all the way to the WCHA conference championship and the NCAA tournament. Starting with that weekend, North Dakota went 13-2-3 on their way to the WCHA Final Five, while Minnesota went 7-10-2 the rest of the way and failed to make the national tournament even though they were serving as host of the West Regional.

This season , it’s too early to tell which team should come out on top this weekend. Both teams are searching for line combinations and identity, and it’s almost a shame that these crucial games need to be played this early in the season.

All that being said, this weekend’s games are critical for league points, momentum, and the all-important Sioux-Gopher rivalry.

Minnesota Team Profile
Head Coach: Don Lucia (11th season at Minnesota, 256-126-45, .652)
National Ranking: #8/#9
This Season: 0-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 17-13-7 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 12-11-5 WCHA (5th)
Key Returning Players (last season‘s statistics): Sophomore F Jordan Schroeder (13-32-45), Senior F Jay Barriball (11-23-34), Junior F Mike Carman (8-9-17), Junior D Cade Fairchild (9-24-33), Junior G Alex Kangas (17-11-6, 2.79 GAA, .901 SV%, 3 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 132-71-19, .637)
National Ranking: #4/#4
This Season: 2-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Key Returning Players (last season’s statistics): Senior F Chris VandeVelde (18-17-35), Sophomore F Jason Gregoire (12-17-29), Sophomore F Brett Hextall (12-14-26), Senior D Chay Genoway (3-29-32), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (24-12-4, 2.56 GAA, .906 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers
Last meeting: January 10, 2009 (Grand Forks). North Dakota routs Minnesota 6-1 to complete the weekend sweep over the visiting Gophers. Coming in to the weekend, Minnesota had lost three games all season (10-3-5).
Most important meeting: March 24, 1979 (Detroit, MI). North Dakota and Minnesota met to decide the national championship, and the Gophers prevailed, 4-3.
All-time: Minnesota leads the all-time series, 130-124-12 (.511), while North Dakota leads in games played in Grand Forks, 66-53-7 (.552).

Game News and Notes
North Dakota has had the better of the play lately, going 9-2-1 in the past three seasons (with both losses coming by one goal). Sioux seniors Chay Genoway and Chris Vandvelde each have six points in ten career games against Minnesota. The last time the two teams met in the conference opener for both schools was in 1999, when visiting North Dakota managed a tie and a win in Don Lucia’s first WCHA games as the new Gophers’ head coach. This weekend is a White Out Weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena, with Fighting Sioux fans encouraged to wear white to both games. In an effort to minimize traffic and congestion at the arena, Gopher fans are asked to arrive at 10:37 p.m.

The Prediction

Minnesota has only one exhibition contest worth of game experience this season, and the Gophers were off last weekend. The rust will show on Friday, but I expect Saturday’s contest to be much more closely contested. UND 4-1, UM 4-3.

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